What Is a Web Browser? Definition Plus 5 Examples

Updated on September 1, 2019
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Paul's passion for technology and digital media goes back over thirty years. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida, USA.

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What is a Browser?

A web browser, or browser for short, is a computer software application that enables a person to locate, retrieve and display content such as webpages, images, video, as well as other files on the World Wide Web.

Browsers work because very web page, image, and video on the web has its own unique Uniform Resource Locator (URL), allowing the browser to identify the resource and retrieve it from the web server.

What is The Difference Between a Search Engine and a Browser?

Some people confuse web browsers and search engines, but they are not the same and perform different roles. A search engine is essentially a type of website that stores searchable information about other websites (common examples of search engines are Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Baidu). However, to connect to a website's server and display its webpages requires a browser. Some examples of browsers can be found below.

5 Popular Browsers

Google Chrome

Chrome, created by internet giant Google, is the most popular browser in the USA, perceived by its computer and smartphone users as fast, secure, and reliable. There are also many options for customization in the shape of useful extensions and apps that can be downloaded for free from the Chrome Store. Chrome also allows easy integration with other Google services, such as Gmail. Due to the success of the "Chrome" brand name, Google has now extended it to other products, for example, Chromebook, Chromebox, Chromecast and Chrome OS.

Apple Safari

Safari is the default on Apple computers and phones, as well as other Apple devices. It's generally considered to be an efficient browser, its slick design being in keeping with the ethos of Apple. Originally developed for Macs, Safari has come to be a significant force in the mobiles market, due to the domination of iPhones and iPads. Unlike some of the other browsers listed, Safari is exclusive to Apple, it doesn't run on Android devices, and the Windows version of Safari is no longer supported by important security updates from Apple.

Microsoft Internet Explorer and Edge

Although it has been discontinued, Internet Explorer is worthy of a mention as it was the go-to browser in the early days of the internet revolution with usage share rising to 95% in 2003. However, its relatively slow start-up speed meant that many users turned to Chrome and Firefox in the years that followed. In 2015, Microsoft announced that Microsoft Edge would replace Internet Explorer as the default browser on Windows 10, making Internet Explorer 11 the final version to be released. At the time of writing, the market share of Microsoft Edge remains lower than Internet Explorer, which is still used by many people around the world.

Mozilla Firefox

Unlike Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Edge, Firefox is an open-source browser, created by community members of the Mozilla Foundation. It is perhaps the most customizable of the main browsers with many add-ons and extensions to choose from. In late 2003, it had a usage share of 32.21% before gradually losing out to competition from Google Chrome. It currently remains a strong competitor in the "desktop" field but has a lower market share in the mobile arena, where Google Chrome and Apple Safari tend to dominate.

Opera

Another web browser worthy of mention is Opera, which is designed for Microsoft Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux operating systems. It has some interesting features and is generally considered to be a reliable option by many users. Many of its earlier features have gone on to be incorporated into rival browsers. It also has a distinct user interface. At the time of writing, Opera has a usage of just 2.28% but remains influential, albeit from the fringes.

Which Browser am I Using Right Now?

If you don't know, or are unsure which browser or version that you are using to view this article right now, there are a number of ways to find out.

Probably the easiest way is to use a website which tells you. I've listed examples of three below (click on a link to find out):

Another way to find out which browser you are using is through the browser itself. Browsers vary in the their setup and layout, so it's impossible to give advice that works in every case. However, if you click on the browser's drop down menu, usually found in the top right-hand corner of the page, then click on "help" and then "about", it will tell you which browser and version you are using in most cases.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Paul Goodman

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